Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2012
Updated: 2013-04-21 13:49
II. On Civil and Political Rights
The recent years have seen closer surveillance of American citizens by the US government. In the country, abuse of suspects and jail inmates is common occurrence, and equal suffrage enjoyable by citizens continues to be undermined.
The US government continues to step up surveillance of ordinary Americans, restricting and reducing the free sphere of the American society to a considerable extent, and seriously violating the freedom of citizens. The US congress approved a bill in 2012 that authorizes the government to conduct warrantless wiretapping and electronic communications monitoring, a move that violates people's rights to privacy. According to a report carried on May 4, 2012 by the CNET website, the FBI general counsel' s office has drafted a proposed law requiring that social-networking websites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly (news.cnet.com, May 4, 2012). Documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union on September 27, 2012, reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring American's electronic communications. Between 2009 and 2011, the Justice Department' s combined number of original orders for "pen registers" and "trap and trace devices" used to spy on phones increased by 60 percent, from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011. The number of authorizations the Justice Department received to use these devices on individuals' email and network data increased 361 percent between 2009 and 2011. The National Security Agency collects purely domestic communications of Americans in a "significant and systematic" way, intercepting and storing 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications every day. A Wired investigation published in March 2012 revealed the NSA is currently constructing a huge data center in Utah, meant to store and analyze "vast swaths of the world' s communications" from foreign and domestic networks (The Guardian, July 10, 2012). As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in its December 2011 report, the US could potentially use military drones to spy on its citizens (Fars News Agency, June 26, 2012).
On September 17, 2012, or the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street's initial demonstration, confrontations between protesters and police around the Wall Street resulted in the arrests of more than 100 people (The New York Times, September 17, 2012). The US journalist community is worried about the continued toughening up of legislation on mass media. It is frequent that journalists in the US lose their jobs because of "politically incorrect" opinions (www.mid.ru, October 22, 2012).
Complaints and allegations of American police violating rights of suspects and jail inmates are going up. A litany of lawsuits was brought against the New York City Police Department, with police officers charged with violating civil rights in law enforcement. According to a report carried by the Chicago Tribune on March 6, 2012, jail inmate Eugene Gruber, 51, was paralyzed a day after he walked into a jail where he was believed to have been maltreated. He died of injury four months after the jail incident. Another report by the Chicago Tribune on March 21, 2012 showed that suspect Darrin Hanna suffered trauma from physical restraint and Taser shocks during a struggle with North Chicago police and died a week later. The CNN reported on May 17, 2012 that some 9.6 percent of the prisoners in state prisons are sexually victimized during confinement, more than double the rate cited in a report on the subject in 2008. In Texas state prisons, many inmates are housed in triple-digit temperatures in Fahrenheit. Four inmates -- Larry Gene McCollum, 58; Alexander Togonidze, 44; Michael David Martone, 57; and Kenneth Wayne James, 52 -- died in summer of 2011 from heat stroke, and at least five others were believed to have died from heat-related causes (www.texascivilrightsproject.org, July 7, 2012).
American citizens have never really enjoyed common and equal suffrage. Despite an increase of over eight million citizens in the eligible population in the US presidential election of 2012, voter turnout registered a drop of five million from four years before, with only 57.5 percent of eligible citizens voting (bipartisanpolicy.org, November 8, 2012). A February 2012 report by the Pew Center said America's voter registration system is plagued with errors and inefficiencies that undermine voter confidence and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of the country's elections (www.pewstates.org).
The US election is like money wars, with trends of the country's policies deeply influenced by political donations. The 2012 election had an estimated cost totalling six billion US dollars. The Obama campaign and the Democratic camp raised 1.06 billion dollars, and the Romney campaign and the Republican camp raised a total of 954 million dollars (www.standard.co.uk, November 6, 2012). Both groups have funding support from business giants. An opinion poll showed that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe the 2012 election is marked by too many political donations from business circles, which will mean the increased influence of the rich over the country's policy-making (The International Herald Leader [Chinese newspaper], November 16, 2012). A Harvard professor said America' s political system is sinking into serious crisis as it is under manipulation of interest groups and their sponsors. Election donations give a loose rein to all other defects. American politics are corroding the people, making them increasingly dependent on interest groups (Internationale Politik, November & December issue, 2012).
Citing a world-known analyst, the Christian Science Monitor website in a report on November 5, 2012 said America's trouble-prone voting machines, the risk of tampering in those machines, the lack of transparency in vote tabulation, and then the Electoral College system, combine to give the country an election system that leaves much to be desired.